Deputy Speaker, good morning to all our guests in the gallery - you are welcome.
When this Bill was introduced to the committee in November 2013, I realised that although it was noble in intent, aiming to give effect to the letter and spirit of our Constitution regarding the equal enjoyment of all rights and of freedom by every person, the constitutionality and feasibility of the Bill was of great concern.
Although it was continuously mentioned during public submissions and deliberations, the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities was in complete denial about the fact that this Bill intrudes on the constitutional mandate of the important Chapter 9 institution, the Commission for Gender Equality, CGE. The Constitution states that the CGE has:
... the power to monitor, investigate, research, educate, lobby, advise and report on issues concerning gender equality.
The powers of the CGE are further expanded on in the Commission on Gender Equality Act, Act 39 of 1996.
The Bill not only overrides the mandate of the CGE, and the Minister mentioned this, but also duplicates some provisions in a host of other Acts, including the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, Act 4 of 2000, the Employment Equity Act, Act 55 of 1998, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, Act 75 of 1997, the Broad- Based Black Economic Empowerment Act, Act 53 of 2003 and the Human Rights Commission Act, Act 54 of 1994.
The issue of the duplication of legislation was mentioned in 37 of the 41 public submissions heard by this committee. The Legal Resources Centre had the following to say in their submission:
We emphasise the need for an approach that sees the harmonization of interventions between public bodies in order to achieve gender equality. This is currently sorely absent in the implementation of government policies and plans.
Even the Green Paper produced in preparation for this Bill called on the Ministry to co-ordinate a comprehensive process for reviewing and assessing current legislation and policy. We need to know why existing pieces of legislation and policy are silent on and/or unresponsive to gender-based challenges on all levels. We also need to know why existing pieces of legislation - and it is too late to mention today that they will be implemented - are not being implemented effectively, for instance, the Domestic Violence Act, Act 116 of 1998. How will the women of South Africa benefit from another piece of legislation that does not address the real issues and that cannot be implemented? [Applause.]
When asked what research informed this Bill, the department pointed to a Statistics SA report that showed that women are vulnerable and in need of an intervention. The DA acknowledges that the women of South Africa are vulnerable. However, it is not the women climbing the corporate ladder who need the intervention. Nor is it the back-benchers in the ANC, who heckle and clap hands and earn big salaries but hardly contribute in holding the department to account, who need intervention. [Applause.] [Interjections.]
The Statistics SA report was clear that women bear the brunt of poverty in our communities ...